Bright orange fences in the sun. The sounds of drills and diggers. Dirt, dust and debris. The Northern Kentucky University campus is under construction, but infrastructure maintenance and renovations extend far below closed pathways, away from public view.
The most important construction takes place on the bridge connecting the university center with the administrative center Lucas and the center of mathematics-education-psychology, which is closed for repairs until the end of November. The MEP building itself had its standby generator replaced in September, giving it access to emergency power in the event of a breakdown. A few steps up a flight of stairs, the crumbling cobblestones of Loch Norse next to the Palace of Fine Arts were also repaired for several weeks during the month.
These are just some of the most visible examples of maintenance and renovation at NKU, processes that are ongoing at all times. Some involve entirely new additions to the NKU campus, the most notable of which is Opportunity House: a partnership with Brighton Center and the City of Highland Heights to provide post-secondary education and career opportunities for former homestay students and others. vulnerable young adults aged 18 to 24.
Opportunity House was converted from the vacant Brown Building next to Callahan Hall, now furnished with 15 individual bedrooms, a meeting/classroom, kitchen, laundry, offices, storage and common areas. The facility officially opened on September 14 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and is now fully occupied by students planning to attend NKU or Gateway Community and Technical College.
Other projects at NKU involve the transformation of existing infrastructure, exemplified by Phase II of the Norse Hall renovations that took place throughout this summer. Estimated at $3,262,000 according to the university’s facilities management report, it is the most ambitious program to be completed this year, followed by the construction of Opportunity House.
Yet projects with even greater scopes are on the horizon. Two scheduled for late spring 2023 involve the complete demolition and reconstruction of the raised floor slab on the first floors of the Center for Fine Arts and Nunn Hall – alongside the installation of a new fire alarm system at the Beaux-Arts, bathroom replacements at Nunn Hall, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) upgrades in both buildings. The projects are estimated at $13,240,000 and $8,880,000 respectively.
However, cost is not the only measure of scope: it is also the amount of work a building receives. Callahan Hall has seen and will continue to see various improvements to its infrastructure, from stairwell repairs and interior painting to a new exercise room and renovated courtyard. Work on these projects began in the spring of this year and is expected to be completed in the fall.
Of the 19 projects listed in the facilities management report, six are funded primarily by the state for asset preservation — as long as $0.15 of NKU funds match every dollar of state funds — y including the two major ground uplift projects. The other 13 draw their funding from a pool of deferred maintenance projects — an amount allocated from the university’s budget before the creation of state asset preservation funds — with some exceptions.
Opportunity House was financed by Brighton Properties. Major renovations to residential buildings on campus were funded by bonds issued by NKU. The National Panhellenic Council (NPHC) plots, a site honoring historically black Greek-letter organizations through donor recognition cobblestones, foil banners and an engraved monument stone from Africa, were funded by the NKU Innovation Challenge, donors, student affairs and awaits delivery of the monument.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of construction,” assistant vice president of facilities management Syed Zaidi said, referring to the larger and more visible projects. Many projects are in the design phase and more construction will take place during the winter break when crews are more present on campus, he added.
The vast expanse of the infrastructure iceberg concerns details and aspects that may not be immediately visible, but which contribute to the efficient operation of NKU: cooling and heating units, connections and valves on the boilers of the power station, drains and drainage pipes, fans and high voltage switchgear, electric light fixtures. Zaidi called a 16 streetlight replacement project slated for this fall his number one priority, along with a sidewalk repair program on campus.
Although largely kept out of the public eye, these infrastructural details can have far-reaching impacts should something go wrong. According to senior director of design, planning and construction, Mary Paula Schuh, last year the water main under the bridge leading to the MEP building broke and the valves closest to the main couldn’t turn to turn off the water.
“Our water system is designed as a loop system and there were valves on both sides of the break, and because the east side isolation valves weren’t closing tightly, they had to close the east loop, which had an impact on the alternating current. [Administrative Center]FA, MP and BC [Business Center] buildings,” Schuh explained.
The team aims to replace the old valves so that sections of the water loop can be isolated, allowing them to close a single building instead of closing several like last year.
Preventing such issues means that NKU is in a constant state of maintenance and improvement, which can be complicated and expensive, but some projects have performed better than facilities management predicted.
“A number of projects turned out to be cheaper,” said Zaidi, a boon in an industry that is seeing escalating prices due to supply chain issues.
The team is particularly proud of a roof restoration project for the University Center, Business Center and Science Center, Zaidi added. Instead of replacing roofs and having to dispose of materials in landfills, they rebuilt the roof layers and added 20 years to the life of the roof, further supporting NKU’s durability while saving half the cost. intended.
The noise, construction trucks and blocked entrances may not be a welcome presence, but they are part of the natural, organic process to keep the campus vibrant and viable, Zaidi said.
“The campus is over 50 years old and these buildings need tender and loving care,” he said. “Help us, support us. Everyone should allow a little extra time for public transit when you come to class… Be very optimistic that at the end of the tunnel we will have a much better and prettier campus.